Avoiding Ignorant Stereotypes 101

language learning from sclanguagecenterdotcom

One of the most powerful lessons that I learned during my study abroad experience was the lesson of being the outsider.  I learned how it felt to be a foreigner and a minority.  I learned how it felt to live in a place where I didn’t understand how things worked, and I didn’t understand everything that was said to me.  And, since I have spent some time in those shoes, I feel like I achieved some empathy to the outsiders/foreigners/minorities that live in my own country.  In particular, here are some of my own personal tips on how to communicate with someone who is learning your language:

Speak slower, not louder.  Anyone who has any experience learning a language knows that a new language can sound all slurred together, and it’s often hard to tell where one word ends and another begins.  It is somewhat condescending and belittling to talk to someone as if they’re hard of hearing when they’re learning your language.  Also, don’t speak to them in baby-talk.

Go light on the sarcasm.  Humor is just one of those things that is impossible to directly translate and is often one of the most difficult things to learn in a new culture or language.  Realize that they may be frustrated that they can’t adequately do their own sense of humor justice in your language; and that their own personality isn’t fully complete in your culture.

Don’t ask them to speak for their entire nationality/race/gender/religion/insert-other-identity-here.  “You’re an American.  What do Americans think about ____?”

Consider that their conversational speed is different than yours.  Some cultures speak to each other very quickly, even interrupting others before they’re done speaking.  Other cultures have a few seconds of pause before responding.  Try to let them finish what they’re saying, even if they’re struggling to find the words, instead of trying to finish their sentence for them.

And lastly, be patient.  It is an enormous struggle to learn a new language.  It’s exhausting.  It’s exhilarating.  But I believe some of the best language-learning happens when you get a chance to have a long and meaningful conversation with a native speaker.

- Michelle Rembolt, OIE

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What does it mean to be a Global Citizen? A Reply.

In a previous blog, Tiffany challenged us to think about what it means to be a global citizen and how our identity might be impacted through experiences abroad.

Study abroad is an opportunity for DU’s students not simply to visit other countries but to experience, dig beneath the surface, and experience the subtleties and nuances of another culture first hand.  To be a global citizen is to be able to negotiate different cultures, to understand the subtleties of what contributes to different cultures and to understand your interactions between your identity in your home country and the country you are studying abroad in. Finally, a global citizen is someone who comes to appreciate culture shock, a natural process of cultural adjustment when you leave a culture you are used to and enter another.

The most important step to becoming a global citizen is to take your experiences from abroad and to apply them back here in your community. To do this means finding ways to share your experience back in the United States at school, in your classes, with your family and in your communities. If your experience abroad enables you to apply your appreciation and more nuanced understanding of another culture in the classroom, to help debate or to provide a nuance or analysis that only a firsthand experience of another culture could bring, then that will not only help you, but also others to become global citizens. The more immersive your experience, the greater the insight that you will be able to add.

With this, study abroad cannot only to give you a new understanding about yourself and your identity, but it should encourage you to be more questioning about your home culture upon your return. Parts of everyday life that you never questioned previously, such as the pace of life, the culture of individualism in the United States, or the role of public transport (not transportation!) may be just a few areas of life which come to challenge you. After this process of self-evaluation, it may well give you the encouragement to break out of your community and explore new cultures and traditions within the United States, whether it be through new activities, new friends or new places within America.

What will you add?

Callum Forster, Peer Advisor

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What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?



So you have a passport… now what?

Maybe you’ve seen Europe. Your family took a vacation to Australia when you were little. You have participated one of DU’s ISL trips. So you have visited abroad. You may be aware of the current problems affecting populations around the world. Does that make you a Global Citizen?

If not, what does it mean to actually become a Global Citizen?

Well, we think it is not as simple as just seeing another culture. We also don’t think it is as transformative as shedding your American identity in place of 100% immersion in that culture either.

Global Citizen is a buzzword that many universities have been using with their students. It begins with possessing a passport, visiting other countries, and learning about other cultures. But it can’t end there. The most important part of this Global Citizenship is the way you relate your own identity to your experiences abroad.  It is not enough to be aware of problems happening around the world. It is necessary for us, the new generation of global citizens, to also understand our role in the world that created these problems.

As you are beginning to truly prepare for your journey abroad, it is also a good time to begin thinking about your identity, and what features of your identity may define your experiences abroad. How are you expecting to interact with the culture around you? How are you expecting the host country to perceive you? And how might your identity, be it your gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or life experiences, affect these interactions abroad?

Sunset in Amman with some wonderful friends

These questions are important to ask yourself as you prepare for your journey, especially if you are travelling to a less traditional destination for study abroad. As you prepare to become a Global Citizen, it is important to manage your expectations. You cannot immerse yourself 100% to the point of ‘becoming’ a local, but you can consciously shape your experience by interacting with the local culture as much as your identity will allow. You can acknowledge the way that your identity shapes your experiences there. Finally, you can use this knowledge to gain an even larger understanding of the culture you have chosen to live in, and the way in which that culture interacts with the rest of the world.

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself”

Tiffany Wilk, Peer Advisor

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I Thought I Wasn’t Prejudiced

After living and working in another country I felt I had learned about a different culture. Especially after being abroad for the entirety of my junior year, I thought I identified with certain parts of the Chinese culture. Obviously, I am not Chinese and am by no means an expert on Chinese culture. Still, I had studied the language pretty intensively, had lived with a host family, traveled on my own and consumed copious amounts of Chinese food. Only after two months of being back did I begin to realize how being exposed and immersed in Chinese culture affected me.

Apart from thinking silverware was heavy and clunky compared to chopsticks, I also subconsciously thought I could identify various kinds of Asian ethnicities (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.). Let me explain.

You know how animals seem to have a sixth sense and can detect when there is danger? It may sound strange, but I swear there are people who have a sixth sense and can tell the difference between different nationalities (much like people here pick up on what regional area a person is from based on his/her characteristics). While in China I interacted with people from Japan, Singapore, and other southeastern Asian countries. After awhile I began to subconsciously identify the people I interacted with as belonging to certain nationalities. The funny thing was I had no idea about this until two months after I returned to the United States.


One day, while waiting for an appointment, my friend was looking up different doctors on her phone. She handed me her phone and asked me if the doctor she was looking at was possibly Chinese. I looked at the person and at the name, and it was definitely not a Chinese name. I shook my head, saying I did not think he was Chinese. Still, I continued looking at the doctor’s photo, my eyes going back between the name and the face. And then it clicked.

“He’s probably Vietnamese.” I told my friend. “He looks just like my friend so-and-so from Vietnam.”

“Oh, I was judging based on the name.” My friend responded, quickly taking her phone back. A few minutes later she said, “I looked up the name and it’s Vietnamese.”

Once we were back in her car, she told me the receptionist had given me a harsh look when I brazenly said the doctor looked Vietnamese. I was completely taken aback—I had just spent nine months living in a country where it was almost second nature to classify people based on their appearance. After hearing about the reaction my comment had gotten, I was immediately self-conscious. On one hand, I could see people of certain ethnic identities not appreciating me judging others based on looks. On the other hand, it was normal to me because I had just come from a country where that was normal—people would call me Russian or ask where in Germany I was from. Some people told me I was obviously American. I learned to roll with it. Once back in the States, however, I felt obligated to consciously realign my thinking. It was weird at first, but I have gradually shifted back to certain attitudes and behaviors that are more accepted in the United States.

When I think about this experience, it is almost embarrassing to think that people thought I was prejudiced. I considered myself operating as I had been trained to do abroad, in a different country and in a different culture. It became natural to begin to identify the people I saw with certain Asian countries. The interaction at the doctor’s office made me immediately conscious of how habits developed in other countries may not be very appropriate when I am in the US. Hopefully this awareness transfers to further travels and interactions with various people.


-Michelle Yeager, Peer Adviser.

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Tae Kwon Do and Study Abroad


Hi study abroad friends, below are a few stories from my first study abroad experience in South Korea at Yonsei University in 2009 that I used in some scholarship essays. Enjoy!

“So what do you think?” Master Jang asks. I pause unsure of how to respond, “It’s not what I expected.” Then Master Jang gave me the best advice I had yet to receive since beginning my study abroad program in South Korea, “Keep an open mind.” Master Jang, the first seventh-degree black belt in Taekwondo I had ever met, was leading the International Yonsei Tae Kwon Do Club’s practice. After watching them for two hours shivering on a wooden bench in the gym, it was clear this was not what I had envisioned.


That was Monday March 2, 2009—the first day of school; it is now one month into spring semester at Yonsei University where I am an exchange student. A year and a half ago I was a freshman eating cafeteria food with international students Yumi, Mi Seon, and Ning. Now I am the exchange student eating cafeteria food with other Korean and international students. Yumi, from Seoul, gave me a wonderful reception upon arrival to South Korea.

“Emilie!!” Someone is screaming my name, but I can’t see who it is in the crowd of people. “Ahhh!” another person screams. I stop in my sleepless stupor to locate where all the commotion is coming from. Finally Yumi and Mi Seon break through the crowd running in high heels (as much as heels would allow them) to greet me. Considering the two half-crying girls surrounding me in the airport an observer might think I was a long awaited traveler who had finally come home. But that was my first day in a foreign country, and the beginning of two semesters of studying abroad at Yonsei University.

Yumi introduced me to Yonsei University during my freshman year. I was having difficulties finding a suitable place to study abroad. None of the programs matched my requirements: an East Asian country—preferably South Korea, a university that offered classes taught in English, and a wide range of classes to ensure two semesters of productive study that would allow me to graduate on time.


Yonsei was the perfect fit: it was in South Korea, it had numerous classes taught in English ranging from engineering to economics, it had a home-stay program, and the Korean Language Institute was top ranked in the world. I chose Yonsei, and by doing so I was creating my first alma mater. I had to transfer to a Yonsei partner-school in order to be eligible to study abroad there. The extra work it took to go to South Korea instead of a well-traveled destination has proven to be completely worthwhile. One example is a demonstration of the Korean martial art Tae Kwon Do I participated in.

Don’t flinch. I am sitting on the shoulders of a man I met an hour ago. There is a board in my hands, my eyes are squeezed shut, and a seventh-degree black belt standing below the board I’m holding—preparing to smash it to pieces. Smack—the board breaks right before my (closed) eyes. Studying abroad forces students into many interesting and challenging situations that give us a chance to grow, learn, and build our character. This year I know I will go through many unforeseen challenges—like when I unexpectedly found myself a part of demonstrating how to break Tae Kwon Do precision boards for a large visiting class of Japanese high school students.


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3 Things I Learned My First Week Abroad

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A Croatian Sunset, no Instagram needed

The first few days in a new place are really exciting. No matter how blandly something is painted or regular to the locals, for you, it seems everything you see is new and shiny. These feelings get magnified when abroad. Being immersed in culture for the first time, and for me on an entirely different continent, EVERYTHING WAS SO COOL. Here are a few of the lessons I learned in those first few days I was abroad.

1. You’re Not As Fluent As You Think You Are

I’ve been speaking Spanish since I was 5 years old, a total of 15 years. I attended bilingual Elementary and Middle Schools, finished AP Spanish in High School, spent a summer living in rural Nicaragua, and one of my majors is Spanish; needless to say, I thought I was super prepared to go abroad and speak entirely in Spanish.

Wrong. WRONG.

Melodrama aside, it was the little things that fell through the cracks. For example, what do you call shower gel in Spanish? I spent roughly 15 minutes in the soap and shower section of a Carrefour grocery store in Spain desperately trying to figure out if Crema de ducha, which literally translates to “shower cream”, was indeed shower gel and not a lotion you applied post-shower.

Crema de ducha is indeed shower gel, I luckily discovered, however hovering stupidly in the aisle for WAY too long taught me that no question is ever too silly, and having a sense of humor and embracing your idiosyncrasies is key to not getting too overwhelmed.

2. Change Matters

How many of you out there carry around spare change? What’s that? None of you do because it’s totally not worth it and is a waste of valuable pocket space? Fancy that, I thought the same thing!

Here in the States, I leave anything less than a dollar at home. Change is reserved for saving in a piggy bank, then exchanging for an Amazon Gift Card when you think you have enough. In the UK and the Eurozone, however, I found this to be far from the norm. Most restaurants and local shops deal exclusively in cash, and coins are worth up to 2 Euros or Pounds. Be prepared to have some heavy pants and purses, ladies and gentlemen.

What I was left with was, ironically, the small changes to your life always seem to be the most impactful.

3. Umbrellas are a real thing

Growing up and going to school in Colorado has many advantages: we are the fittest and most active State, host the smartest city in the U.S. (Boulder), and get 300 days of sun a year. There are mountains to climb, fields to frolic in, and most importantly NO RAIN. We vacillate between snow and sunshine, and as the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather in Colorado, wait 5 minutes.

Then I discovered how the real world worked.

An umbrella’s only role used to be taking up valuable space in the closet. Abroad, umbrellas are not the relics from when you lived “back on the East Coast” and it “rained” frequently. This became blatantly apparent when I was walking around Salamanca one afternoon with some friends and it started to drizzle. Like any good Coloradan, I said, “this will blow over.”

It didn’t.

One torrential downpour later, miserable and soaked from the waist down, thankfully I had the foresight to bring my raincoat along, I returned home, only to leave as soon as the rain subsided to buy myself a fancy new umbrella.

Well I guess these things are useful. Neat.

The moral of the story here is to be prepared for the small things in your life to change: you never noticed how much time you had at a supermarket checkout line in the States until you have a gruff German woman frustratingly urging you to hurry up packing your produce into your backpack.

Get ready for the time of your life.

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Max Spiro

Peer Advisor, Office of Internationalization

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Belle of the Belfast City

After my return home to Denver, I can begin reflecting on my time abroad, and I can say I am grateful for my placement at Queen’s. This university and the city of Belfast in general made for a one of a kind experience, and I would strongly recommend exploring this destination to others considering places to go abroad. That being said, if Belfast doesn’t make your cut for programs, I would also recommend it as a place to visit. Why you ask? Well here are a few of my favorite things about this wonderfully underrated capital of a British territory with a full and rich history, a great music scene, and colorful characters straddling their British and Irish identities.

If you do plan to visit Belfast, or attend Queen’s University, these are my Belfast top 8 locations to visit:

1. St. George’s Market

This great weekend attraction is an indoor open market in the city center. If you are looking for a traditional Northern Irish breakfast, a chance to check out some crafts, or even buy fresh produce, this is a one-stop-shop. I spent many weekend mornings exploring the booths at the market and enjoying a breakfast fry or fresh bakery.

Some of the cute items available at the St. George's Market

Some of the cute items available at the St. George’s Market

2. Shankhill/ Bus Tour of the City

One of the coolest parts of Belfast, whether you are a history buff or simply looking for artistic creation is the Belfast murals. The Shankhill neighborhood is one of the divisions of the city that still holds many political ties to the Troubles, and the murals represent these political standpoints.  The tours, like Black Taxi Tours, offer visitors a sad beauty within the city.


3. Titanic Quarter

If you didn’t know, the Titanic was made in Belfast! There is a quarter dedicated to the remembrance of  not only those passengers of the Titanic who died, but the crew who died in the building of the ship is also memorialized. Recently, a new museum was built at the shipyard. I highly recommend visiting the Titanic Quarter as a way to learn about the facts that Leo and Kate may have glossed over in their depiction.

The shipyard where the Titanic was built

The shipyard where the Titanic was built

4. Black Bear Cafe/ Bookfinders

Not far from Queen’s campus is a great cafe. Locally owned and run, The Black Bear Cafe has great coffee, lunch specials, and serves as a quiet study spot or a delicious food stop.  My favorite was the pastries, cappuccino, and the sweet potato fries. The other great coffee shop is Bookfinders, owned and run by a local Belfast woman,Mary. It has quite a bit of character and may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but equally as close to Queen’s campus, it offers a great place to study while enjoying coffee, tea, or Mary’s great soup!   In any place you choose to go abroad, I strongly suggest trying local shops and restaurants.  You can get Starbucks anytime, but you’ll miss out on opportunities for local flavor if you stick to American brands.

5. The Eglantine Inn

Food, drink, karaoke? The Eglantine Inn, also along the main road of campus offers a true Belfast experience. And what I mean by that is not only is there fantastic food and drinks, the company is friendly and lively, and the night ends in a rendition of ‘Galway Girl‘ where everyone sings along. For a night to enjoy Belfast life, make sure to stop at The Eg!

6. The Botanic Garden

Less than a three minute walk from my house was the Belfast Botanic Garden. On the wonderful sunny days in the city this was my favorite place to go on a run, walk, or sit and people watch. Filled with dog walkers, stroller pushers, and students from Queen’s the Botanic Garden is beautiful, scenic and a favorite spot to enjoy the autumn leaves falling during your fall quarter abroad.

WP_0011897. The Parlour 

Another great spot for eating, music, and general merriment is The Parlour. After spending lunches, dinners, and evenings listening to the music and enjoying the atmosphere of the local pub/restaurant. Socializing with societies like the acting society or the English society  in the Parlour is a great way to get to know the Queen’s community and visit a great student hub.

8. Christmas Market

Being lucky enough to visit Belfast during the pre-holiday season I was able to visit a European Christmas market. Bringing together traditions from across Europe in food and shops, the market is a beautiful cultural mixture that delights taste buds and fulfills souvenir gifts alike.  I went to the market multiple times, and it was quite a site to see City Hall lit up for the holidays taking part in the traditions of a city.


Enjoying a German tradition: Bratwurst!

Enjoying a German tradition: Bratwurst!

If you are studying in Belfast I also made a top 5 list of day trips you should plan on taking!

1. Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede

This was by far my favorite day trip. The Giant’s Causeway is a natural attraction, being a special rock formation that not only is a gorgeous site at sundown, but has fun Irish Folklore associated with it. I took an organized bus tour along the coast, but this is an easy trip to plan on your own. Either way, I would make it a priority to visit Bushmills, Northern Ireland and see both the Causeway and walk across the old Rope Bridge. Luckily on my trip, we avoided most of the rain, and instead got to see two rainbows along the tour!


View of the Causeway at Sunset

View of the Causeway at Sunset

2. London Derry/ Derry

Another location for those who are interested in the politics or the history of the Troubles is the city of Derry. I was a fan of the murals in the ‘Free Derry’ location, the site of political Civil Rights Protests and the current Bloody Sunday Memorial. Learning the history of a divided nation that that of Ireland and Northern Ireland is important in understanding much of the cultural narrative, and so I made it a priority to learn more about the Troubles and the Peace Process.

My favorite Derry mural

My favorite Derry mural

3. The Mourn Mountains

After living in Colorado for the last 3 years, the Mourns don’t really look much like mountains, but on the island of Ireland they are the site of highest elevation. This being said, it is a great day trip to New Castle to go and explore the mountain trails and then warm up in a local cafe in the small town. If you really like the hikes, there is also the Mountaineering Club at Queen’s that takes monthly camping trips up into the mountains.

View of the Mourns

View of the Mourns

4. Dublin

Crossing into the Republic of Ireland is luckily a lot easier than it was just a decade ago. Now the two hour drive to the Republic’s capital is a direct bus ride, taking you from city center to city center. Although it is two hours away, it is still a doable day trip as the early morning bus leaves at 6am and buses then run all night long. I recommend buying your return ticket right away, as it is cheaper and an open return is good for 30 days after purchase. Dublin is a great city with too much for a single blog post, but some of the things I really enjoyed included: Trinity College, Kilhilmain Gaol, and Temple Bar neighborhood.

Morning on the river in Dublin

Morning on the river in Dublin

5. Downhill

Over the river and through the woods, into the fairytale like forest towards Bishops Gate is the next day trip I strongly suggest. Taking a train to the New Castle easily puts you in one of the most scenic areas of Northern Ireland. This small town is a great stopping point on your way further North to Downhill, a magically tiny town 2km away. On my trip there I walked, finding the short hike anything but dull. The small towns along this part of the coast offer a different culture than the city and a great place to relax. I spent more than a day here, staying in the Downhill Hostel, which was owned by a wonderfully hospitable couple and served as a quite secluded getaway. Be aware though: bring your own food to use in the kitchen, as there are no restaurants close  by, and I was just lucking enough to be driven to the store by the hostel owner.

Downhill Hostel, where I stayed

Downhill Hostel, where I stayed

The beach in Downhill, Northern Ireland

The beach in Downhill, Northern Ireland

Well those are all my recommendations for Northern Ireland. If you decide to study at Queen’s or just visit the country, there is plenty to see and do!  I had the experience of a lifetime in the small country, learning about people and history that is often an overlooked culture. There was an endless list of things to do and places to explore, so I hope the next group studying at Queen’s adds more to my list!

Still on the fence about studying in Belfast? Check out what one of my housemates had to say about the great country in his video.

Jessie GG, DUSA Blogger

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